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The Arabian Nights in Historical ContextBetween East and West$
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Saree Makdisi and Felicity Nussbaum

Print publication date: 2008

Print ISBN-13: 9780199554157

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: January 2009

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199554157.001.0001

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(p.1) Introduction
The Arabian Nights in Historical Context

Saree Makdisi (Contributor Webpage)

Felicity Nussbaum (Contributor Webpage)

Oxford University Press

Alf layla wa layla (known in English as A Thousand and One Nights or The Arabian Nights) changed the world on a scale unrivalled by any other literary text. Over a period of some three hundred years following its 18th-century translation into French and English, a chain of editions, compilations, translations, and variations circled the globe. The development of Western literary forms was hugely influenced by the Arabian Nights though classical Arabic literary culture had, ironically, never held it in especially high esteem. The chapters trace the textual history and circulation of the Nights during and after the European Enlightenment to reveal the text's significant impact on literature, but also its fluctuating reception in relation to political tensions between “East” and “West.” Said's Orientalism remains central to these debates. With the emergence of the Arabic novel, many of the narrative techniques and themes which European and Latin American writers had derived from the Nights served as inspiration for a new generation of Arab novelists. In short, the Orient writes back in a register that both resembles and departs from its representations within and without.

Keywords:   The Arabian Nights, Orient, Orientalism, Arabic, East, West, Galland, translation, Romantic

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